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Thu Jul 9, 2015, 01:17 PM

If This Job Expansion Program Was Initiated in 2008 Would There Have Been Ferguson?

My local NPR radio station often runs "perspectives" from local citizens about social and political issues. This morning there was a very interesting perspective from Seth Morris (hope I got the spelling right) about the need to expand the Public Defenders Office. His perspective was all about the social justice of the matter: the fact that indigent people accused of crimes aren't getting a fair hearing in the Court system because there aren't enough public defenders to help them.

In New York, the justice system system is so over-burdened that people who may not have done anything are being forced to wait in Riker's island for years for their case to move through the system. I've argued on DU before how many elements of the welfare system constitute torture on American soil that should horrify "good citizens" more than Gitmo. This is the ultimate example of it:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/09/nyregion/kalief-browder-held-at-rikers-island-for-3-years-without-trial-commits-suicide.html?_r=0

People who have never been dragged through this level of the poverty bureaucracy just don't get what a theater of the absurd it is. They don't get that people are ALLOWED to subject you to things that take away YEARS of your life. Even if you aren't put away in Riker's, there are other ways that delays, waitlists, and withholdings of needed help take away years from peoples lives: poor people only have one life just like rich people do. Shouldn't cutting off years of their life be considered a form of torture? Also, you can yell about the Constitution and your rights all day and night, and it doesn't mean a thing if there is no lawyer there to help vindicate those rights in a court of law: a courtroom is basically a judge's house - his house, his overly-complicated, utterly incomprehensible-to-normal people rules.

Anyway, when I heard Seth Morris's "Perspective", I wondered why no one had an "a-ha" moment during the great unemployment catastrophe of 2008. Why didn't the government "direct hire" into a lot of Public Prosecutor Offices and civil court advocacy programs? Like expanding medical clinic personnel, that sort of thing kills two poverty birds with one stone: it creates jobs and it helps poor people with something they actually need.

It's not too late. There are still a lot of unemployed people out there, and a even a "healthy" 6% unemployment rate is unacceptable if that 6% is not fluid but rather contains a lot of the older workforce that found themselves unemployable after 2008. "Healthy unemployment" is part of a market theory that benefits employers that want the cheap labor of people desperately grateful for any job and too fearful to quit even in an "at will" economy. The only situation that empowers workers and keeps people fed and housed (or at least gives them a dignified response to rightwing harpies when they aren't fed and housed) is 100% employment. A step toward that would be radical expansion of the Public Defenders Office and civil court advocates.

But where will we get the money? I can hear the collective wringing of bipartisan GOP and Third Way hands already. Well, how about we defer buying just one trillion dollar airplane? That ought to be a good kickstart. A SCUD missile costs 20k. If we can afford to drop those on Iraq every 3 minutes, it seems we can afford to hire a paralegal every 6 minutes. Also, think of the money we save by NOT putting people in the prison system: that's around 40-50k per prisoner per year. We could be sending 2 or 3 inner city and rural kids to college for each prisoner a Public Defender deals with in a timely manner. We have plenty of darned money. We just need to rip the race-baiting dog whistles out of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell's mouths, grind it under our collective heels until there's nothing left but dust, and MOVE the danged money over from the special-delivery-to-our-war-cronies budget back to a decent social programs budget.

There are very few better ways to use that money. Rebuilding the fundamental welfare safety infrastructure is important. Dealing with the housing crisis is fundamental. I would put this Public Defender Office and civil court advocate expansion project up there in the top three.

Democratic Primary candidates are you listening?

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Reply If This Job Expansion Program Was Initiated in 2008 Would There Have Been Ferguson? (Original post)
daredtowork Jul 2015 OP
daredtowork Jul 2015 #1

Response to daredtowork (Original post)

Thu Jul 9, 2015, 04:36 PM

1. Surprised there was no interest in this. nt

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